Working hard to qualify for Joint Admissions Board (JAB) consideration is what always rings in the minds of the youngsters in high schools. This is because students feel they will be able to pursue higher education without any constrains regarding fee payment and upkeep while at the university.
The Higher Education Loans Board was established by an Act of Parliament. The statute known as The Higher Education Loans Board Act, 1995 was legally established as Act number 3 of 1995. It came into existence on the 21st day of July 1995 through Kenya Gazette Supplement (Cap 213A).
Since then, HELB has been offering university fees to students in form of low interest loans annually for the entire period they are at the university. The loan is offered both to students who qualify for JAB and self sponsored students.
My focus, however, is on JAB students whose survival at the university depends on the loan. Since its establishment in 1995, the scale and criteria that was being used to disburse the amount was arrived at based on the economy then.
During that time, a student could pay his/her tuition fees, have enough money for upkeep throughout the academic year and some would support their families with the remaining amount. Those days JAB students led lavish lifestyles in campus because the money was enough and since the economy was favourable, there is no doubt that their pockets were loaded for a better part of the academic year as opposed to self sponsored students who depended on their parents’ pockets in terms of school fees and upkeep.
You will agree with me that the economy has continuously recorded an upward stretch since then reflecting the high cost of essential commodities. In this regard, JAB students are finding it difficult to cope up with campus life due to the increasing cost of living and sometimes forced to find other means of supplementing the little amount they get from HELB.
Some of the students have opted for small business like printing and photocopying services within the institution and others engage in criminal acts for survival. This is because most students come from families that are not well of financially and therefore work extra hard while in secondary schools in order to qualify for JAB since that will ease their journey to accessing higher education.
It is high time the government moves with speed to revisit and revise the scale that is being used to disburse the loans since it does not correspond to the current cost of living as compared to 1995 when the scale was put in place. Failure to do this will see JAB students dropping out of universities for lack of enough funds to facilitate their stay in the universities.